Holiday Shopping Personal Safety Tips

In the United States, Black Friday is a special shopping day that occurs on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. The shopping bargains can be astounding with items like big screen televisions and computers selling for pennies on the dollar. 

But each year brings trouble and even death when customers camp out or wait for hours in front of the store, then are allowed to stampede through the doors, crushing those who fall or fighting over the hot bargains.

Some people started camping as early as Tuesday for a chance to be the first into the store on Black Friday.

In addition to the early opening frenzies, Black Friday is an active day of crowded and frenzied shopping as working people use the day off to get ahead on their Christmas shopping. With the distractions of visiting family, digesting a great feast and other issues, Black Friday shopping can be a hazard.

The National Crime Prevention Council has provided some of the following self protection tips for Black Friday and all holiday shopping days and situations. 

The Black Friday Campout

This is a high risk venture that should be avoided. If the store does not hand out tickets, it is easy to get caught up in fights, stampedes and other problems, especially in the dark and when large and isolated stores are closed. Black Friday will not be the only one day of steep holiday and post holiday discounts in any given year, so try shopping the online Black Friday sales or look for other discounts instead.

ATM Machines

Do use ATM machines at the bank, in a supermarket, or in a well populated, secure and well lit place. It is just not worth the risk to go to an isolated ATM for cash.

Shopping Online

Be very careful to check out online shopping outlets and limit shopping to the most reputable stores. Two old bits of advice can never be repeated too often: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Check out an online store’s background before doing any business with it. Check with the Better Business Bureau if possible or do a Google search of the store’s name. Beware if nothing comes up but the store’s on advertising.  

With online shopping PRINT each and every receipt and keep them in a special folder. Then check your credit card records against the receipts to see if any extra charges were added to your credit card. Do not just check once. Some thieves might wait for months to add another charge to your credit card.

Finally, online shopping is much safer if you use disposable credit cards or money orders. Even a rechargeable disposable credit card will keep online stores away from your important credit accounts.

In The Store

Avoid Black Friday shopping completely if you are ill, exhausted or distracted. It is so easy to forget what you are doing, to be unaware of danger signs, to keep track of things, and to look out for problems if you are not in your best form.

If there are no shopping carts, do not buy more than you can comfortably carry. Ask the store personnel to help you to your car or plan to take someone else along to split the load.

In the store, do not walk around with your credit card out. Wait until the card is requested at the register. This will keep others from looking over your shoulder and getting account information. 

With debit cards, cover the keypad when entering your personal identification number (PIN). Use this practice all the time.

If you carry a purse, use a long handled purse and put it across the body and under your coat. A belly bag is not out of the question. Otherwise, keep your purse close to your body and keep a hand on it. Never put your purse, glasses, keys or wallet in a shopping cart or on any counter.

Avoid parking in the outer areas of mall and store parking lots. If you must park at a distance, make a note of your car’s location or use a smartphone car finding application. As you walk, keep looking all around you to make sure that no one is following, hiding between cars, or lying in wait.

Keep your keys in your hand as you leave the store and approach your car. There are telephone cord styled wristbands that will keep your key chain attached to your wrist so that you cannot leave keys on a counter or have to fumble around in your purse.  

Try wearing coats or jackets with inner pockets for your smart or cell phones. This will keep you from having to open and expose your purse’s contents when the phone is needed. 

Look in the back seats before opening the door and look around you before turning your back to put items in the trunk.

Never leave packages in any part of the car where they can be seen. 

Keep small children in strollers or in the special carts that are available in many stores. If larger children or companions want to separate, set a time limit and identify a central meeting point inside the mall. 

Find out how to contact security at large malls that you visit regularly.

Remove your work badges and necklace ID before doing any after work shopping.

In The Car

If you live or work in a complex that requires a hanging mirror tag, remove the tag to prevent criminals from following you to your workplace or home.

Realize that tensions are high and take the high road when competing for parking spaces or when driving in general. Road rage is much more possible during stressful and crowded holiday shopping situations.